Published October 30. 2020 04:35AM
A lengthy debate ended Monday night with Lehighton Area School District extending the local firm Filer & Schwab Attorneys at Law as its legal representation until June 30, 2021.
Attorney Eric Filer submitted a letter to the district on Oct. 15, offering the continuation of legal services.
“It is my understanding that you may wish to do an request for proposals for solicitor services once a new business administrator is hired,” Filer wrote. “As our current agreement expires this month, I am writing to you to inform you that we would be willing to extend our current agreement with you through the end of the 2020-21 school year if you would so choose. You can terminate this extension at any time.”
The extension passed 5-4.
David Bradley, Joy Beers, Gail Maholick and Richard Beltz moved for an executive session before the vote, but the five remaining board members, Larry Stern, Wayne Wentz, Nathan Foeller, Rita Spinelli and Stephen Holland, were opposed.
“We tried to have an executive session before the meeting, but you caused the meeting to be suspended,” Stern said to Bradley. “If you control your etiquette, maybe we would have more constructive meetings.”
Bradley, in asking for the executive session, said the matter needed further review.
Adding to that, Beers said the district, “had to stop making the same mistakes.”
“This solicitor has taken an overzealous view of Right To Know requests billing this district for tens of thousands of dollars in an effort to block information going to directors,” Bradley said.
Bradley also accused Filer of fighting against the educational benefits for special education students and failing to educate the board so they would be in compliance with the law.
Filer countered, telling Bradley his firm doesn’t deal with special education issues in the district.
“There is a specialized law firm for that,” Filer said. “And when I do give information and try to educate the board, you accuse me of lobbying. You can’t have it both ways.”
Filer also defended several lawsuits the district was involved in with Bradley and other RTK requesters.
“A judge found that 77 percent of the documents in the particular case you reference were properly withheld,” Filer said. “I would hardly call that a spanking as you like to say.”
The district, according to director Rita Spinelli, planned to do a request for proposals, something she is 100 percent behind, earlier this year.
“Because we keep losing business managers and other employees, that has been set back,” Spinelli said. “Eric is not locking himself in until June. He’s just saying he will stay until June if we want him.”
Bradley, however, said other firms could have been contacted.
“One hundred people can do it in the interim without any effort,” he said. “It just takes a phone call.”
Lehighton has extended the firm multiple times while stating it plans to do an RFP. The most recent extension before Monday came in June and passed by a 5-3 vote. At that time, Filer thanked the board for its vote of confidence and said he assumed the firm would be submitting a proposal to stay on should the district indeed put out a request for proposals.
“That RFP should have been done sooner rather than later,” resident Barbara Bowes said. “I understand why this is on the agenda, but if there are concerns they should have been discussed in executive session.”